Senior linebacker Brandon Hicks has been a part of a lot of winning with the Florida Gators. The winning has been so prevalent, that the last three weeks have been very hard to take and understand for this group of seniors at Florida.
Trying to get from behind those losing ways, this Florida team is ready to take on ownership of the problems and try and correct them moving forward. A bye week has allowed some reflection and the Florida players are going to start making sure each other is on the right page.
“It’s been more focused and looking at technique,” Hicks said of the bye week and the different approach the team wants to take moving forward. “There has been more accountability from positional groups and individual players. We are trying to take accountability for each other and the techniques that we need and the plays that we have to get done.
“If there is a missed tackle, we are getting on to that more than the coaches would. We are taking the accountability into our own hands.”
The staff is trying to mold leaders of young men and know that someone has to step up. The early effect seems to have unified maybe some disenchanted groups on the team.
“The accountability was there, but the coaches are putting it on us and let the players take the initiative to correct ourselves,” Hicks said. “II would say there is more of building team chemistry going on. I wish we would have had it in the beginning.”
Florida head coach Urban Meyer is a disciplinarian and a hard coach, but he doesn’t believe in berating his players. A team like his current one that lacks true leadership on both sides of the ball, needs some nurturing as well and according to Hicks, Meyer has tried to push his guys mentally.
“He has been real motivational,” Hicks said. “You see some coaches may break down and try and go out there and say ‘we’re going to practice every day and do this and do that’, he has been real encouraging and telling us to go, go, go, and leave the past behind you. Every day is a new day.
“Basically he is saying we need to see it as one day at a time, one practice at a time, and one play at a time. If we see it like that, anything can happen. It isn’t like we lost all the games and he has been crazy and getting on us. It’s just been him as a motivational speaker for us.”
A normally stingy run defense over the last few years, Florida has given up 212, 161, and 170 rushing yards in the last three games. Injuries, newcomers, a lack of size, and other reasons have been blamed for the defense and not stopping the run, but Hicks says the excuses are poor and just excuses.
“There are a lot of things that are going on,” Hicks said. “We are young, smaller, we can’t execute like we used to. Our linebacker crew said those are all excuses, no matter how big or small you are, if you have the will to stop the run, it will happen. We feel like we have to build that will from within every person on the defense. Once that foundation is set, when we get that mindset where nothing will run against us, the d-line, linebackers, and secondary…we are going to go and stop the run. Everybody will see it once everyone gets that mindset.”
For the defense stopping the run is always the very first agenda.
“It is something we aren’t used to,” Hicks said. “We aren’t used to a losing streak or getting down on each other because things aren’t going our way. Since I have been here we always had things on the upswing. It’s disappointing, but we all know what we have to do, and that is to succeed at stopping the run.”
Hicks and the Gators head to Jacksonville this week to take on Georgia in the annual show down on the St. Johns River. Hicks played at Forrest High School in Jacksonville and has been waiting for this game for quite a while.
“It means a lot because it’s my home town,” Hicks said. “Last year I got injured, so I was disappointed with that. This year I am finally going to get out there and play a little.”
Hicks said that Georgia recruited him, but he never had an interest. But, he understands just how big this game is for Florida fans, especially in his home town.
“I grew up going to the games and it is a big thing in Jacksonville,” he said. “It was like the city was split up between Georgia fans and Florida fans before the game started.”
Then there is the record between the two teams and historically what this game means. Georgia owns a slight seven game lead in the overall series (46-39-2), while Florida has dominated over the last 20 years with a 17-3 record. Hicks has not seen Florida lose even a hand full of games to the Bulldogs. This is certainly one of the rivalry matchups that Urban Meyer points to all the time.
“As a senior, you don’t want to lose to a rival team.” Hicks said. “You think about it hard, and each game you go out there and play harder and it feels like you have to push out just a little extra and just keep going to the point of no return.”
Much like Florida, the Georgia Bulldogs have had a split season. With a 1-4 start, they were in the tank and looking at the cellar of the SEC. They have reeled off three straight wins and now have a chance to win the conference if something goes right. For them, it starts in Jacksonville with a must win game against the Gators.
Hicks has seen enough over Georgia’s last three games to know they are a very talented team. Their resurgence has catapulted especially due to the return from suspension of receiver A.J. Green who poses a big time threat as a physical and fast receiver.
Hicks thinks the Gators have made some bye week adjustments to help moving forward.
“Georgia has a great offense,” he said. “They have players that can make plays and A.J. Green is a great receiver and we are going to try and do what we do best. We will try and stop the run, then stop the pass, and eventually shut down the offense. It won’t be an easy task, every week it’s been tough for us. In the off week we feel like we got the kinks out and are ready to go ahead and try to go to Georgia and keep going on week after week.”
Hicks also believes Georgia’s quarterback Aaron Murray, a freshman, can do some big things for that team.
“He looks like a pretty sound quarterback,” Hicks said of Murray. “He can run and pass the ball. We have seen quarterbacks like that already. It isn’t going to be anything much different. It will be a lot of game planning and us talking the time and effort to watch game film on him and figure out techniques and things like that.”